By Bill Webb
There is never a bad time to honor those who have rendered exemplary spiritual service. But the best time to do so is while they are around to enjoy the praise, gratitude and accolades of those who have benefited from their lives in Christ.
A couple of weeks ago, Logan Street Baptist Church in my hometown of Mt. Vernon - in southern Illinois - decided they wanted to honor a couple who had served together in the ministry for 57 years. Everett Lemay was my pastor for 17-plus years at crosstown Park Avenue Baptist Church. Now, at 81, he serves as minister of senior adults at Logan Street. Peggy, his partner in life for 61 years, also has been his partner in ministry.
I was one of several people invited to say a few words in an afternoon service that pretty much filled the sanctuary. I tried to recall what this couple had meant to me as a young boy, teen-ager and young adult.
Everett knew saving grace was not something to be taken lightly. He said the same thing to children as he did to adults who were considering giving their lives to Christ: Taking the name of Christian is serious business, not to be taken lightly.
This pastor was - and still is - fearless in his service. I have never known him to be hesitant to say a prophetic word, letting the people know God's expectations of them. He knew that it was important to do what he believed was right, regardless of the consequences.
My former pastor was disciplined in his spiritual service. He protected time for study of the Bible. He knew the gospel was worthy of more than a slovenly approach to preaching and teaching. I never saw him dishonor his calling to the ministry by being unprepared.
People in the community could set their watches by his visitation schedule. He took care of his congregation, and he made daily evangelistic visits. I remember the familiar sight of my pastor scooting around town in a little Studebaker sedan, doing the work of the ministry.
My pastor was not an isolated Baptist minister. He always was active in the community in many ways, including his participation in the local ministerial alliance. He realized Baptists are not alone in trying to make a difference in the world.
From as early as I can remember, Everett was active in the local association, the state convention and the Southern Baptist Convention. He served on the old Brotherhood Commission alongside President Jimmy Carter.
He had a deep commitment to cooperative missions and couldn't understand why God and the International Mission Board would not allow him and Peggy to be missionaries. He participated in overseas crusades and was an advocate of fellowship with the worldwide body of Baptists.
He saw potential in younger ministers that they did not see in themselves, and he mentored many of them throughout his ministry.
He understood Baptist distinctives, including our denomination's commitment to religious liberty. He had a deep appreciation for the contributions of Baptist saints who have lived through the centuries.
It was good to see Everett and Peggy, and it was good to see a church and friends honoring them for 57 years in the ministry. Why on the 57th anniversary? Because there is never a bad time to honor those who render life-changing service that honors God.
These two people aren't the only ones due for a well planned pat on the back. People like these are all around us, and showing gratitude to them is one of the ways we show gratitude to God for these human "gifts" he has placed in our lives.